Young man feeling tired and yawning while driving a car.

Spring Forward with Your Health in Mind

Most of us look forward to springtime — we get to enjoy more sunshine, longer days and warmer nights. But losing an hour of sleep when daylight saving time starts isn’t so enjoyable.

On the second Sunday in March, most states will “spring forward” by moving the clocks forward one hour. You might think to yourself — oh well, it’s only an hour. But many experts agree that this time change can impact our health and wellness for days or weeks afterward.

Don’t let daylight savings affect your health and wellness. Get ahead of it and plan properly!

This year, let’s spring forward with our health in mind. Check out how the start of daylight savings may impact your health and what you can do to adjust properly.

The Impact on Our Health

Some people seem to handle the start of daylight savings time better than others. Within a day or two, they feel like they’re back on track. However, it’s not unusual for your sleep patterns to be disrupted for days or even weeks. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The average person gets about 40 minutes less sleep on the Monday after springing forward.
  • Our exposure to light changes. The mornings are darker, which can make you feel more tired in the morning and impact your ability to stay alert. We are also exposed to light later in the evening, which can delay the brain’s release of melatonin, the hormone that promotes drowsiness. This can lead to insomnia or trouble falling asleep at night.
  • Sleep deprivation, even by 40 minutes, can have an impact on your physical and mental health, especially if you’re already not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an increase in reported heart problems, mood disorders and motor vehicle collisions around daylight savings.

Simple Tips to Help You Adjust

Woman stretching sitting in bed lit by sunlight.If you’re worried about the upcoming time change, here are some simple ways you can help your mind and body adjust:

  • Maintain a healthy sleep routine. If your body is already sleep deprived, losing an hour of sleep is more detrimental. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night on a regular basis.
  • Be consistent with your sleep and wake times. This consistency can make the time change easier. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, can help you get back to your routine easier even after daylight savings begins.
  • Alter your schedule gradually in advance. Two or three days before daylight savings, sleep experts suggest going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night. This will help your body adjust slowly to the time difference and make the lost hour less of a shock to your system. Some people even suggest beginning the time change a day early and treating all day Saturday as if it’s already an hour later.
  • Expose yourself to natural light when you wake up. Your circadian rhythm is dependent on light exposure. Getting some natural morning light increases your wakefulness, makes you feel less tired and helps you reset your internal clock. If it’s too cold, even standing by a window can help.
  • Avoid sleep disturbances. To get restful sleep, you should try to avoid certain behaviors that may contribute to poor sleep. These include:
    • Caffeine late in the day (may keep you up)
    • Alcohol (may lead to poor sleep quality)
    • Blue light from cell phones, tablets, etc. (may convince your brain that it’s still daytime)
    • Heavy meals too close to bedtime (may struggle to fall asleep if you’re still digesting)
  • Get regular exercise. Getting enough movement each day can help you sleep better and fall asleep faster each night.
  • Try adjusting your other habits as well. Since your body is going to need cues about proper sleep-wake times, try to do “wakeful” things early, such as exercising and eating breakfast. Even if it’s dark, your body will start to realize it’s supposed to be alert. In the evening, try to move things up a bit. Even though it stays light much longer, eat dinner at least two or three hours before bedtime and try to start relaxing and sending your brain signals that it’s time for rest, even if it’s still light outside.

For more tips on establishing good sleep habits and getting your sleep-wake cycle back on track, check out Get Your Sleep-Wake Cycle on Track: Your Circadian Rhythm Explained.

Don’t let daylight savings affect your health and wellness. Get ahead of it and plan properly!

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